Monday, December 24, 2012

TOP STORY >> City is investing in infrastructure

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville is planning $14.4 million in capital improvements next year in addition to the $24.5 million operations budget approved last week by the city council.

The plan lists projects nearly completed, in the works or on the books for future development. The listing includes $9.2 million in infrastructure construction improvements, $4.4 million in equipment replacement and $882,494 in drainage improvements.

Mayor Gary Fletcher, in the report, stated that “these infrastructure activities are considered essential elements of growth.”

Just because a project is listed in the comprehensive plan doesn’t mean that it has been funded yet.

The plan lists $352,874 that the city has from selling off portions of the old Franklin Electric property, which was donated to the city for $1. This money is earmarked for “fostering commercial and industrial development that directly impact our local job market, especially along Redmond Road and General Samuels,” according to the report.

The plan lists the public sports shooting range at a cost of $3.5 million. The council was informed Thursday that the cost should be about $3 million at this point. This project is a joint venture with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Foundation to build a trap, skeet and 3D archery shooting complex which will be operated by the city’s parks and recreation department.

According to the plan, the estimated economic impact from the range is expected to hit $8 million a year.

The plan also lists widening Main Street at a cost of $2 million. The project is in the design stage and that contract will run $96,000 and is in the budget. Plans call for Main Street to be widened to four lanes from Redmond Road to Harris Road and the dangerous “S” straighten out and the bridge improved.

The Oneida extension is also listed as a $2 million project. The design contract is $144,056 and is in the budget. Plans call for a bridge to be built across the Bayou Meto at the end of Oneida Road with a road continuing on through to Main Street.

Improvements at Main Street and Harris Road are slated to run $500,000. Current plans call for a roundabout to slow and control the traffic and protect students at a nearby bus stop.

Another $500,000 is slated for improvements at General Samuels and Harris roads, again, to protect students and school buses. Another roundabout is planned to help maintain a safe flow of traffic through the intersection.

Other projects listed in the comprehensive plan include:
Replacing and updating all the city’s emergency 911 communications systems at a cost of $2.5 million to meet a federally mandated deadline to convert to digital equipment. Those cities that don’t could suffer delays and blackouts in communication and have a tough time finding replacement parts for older systems.

The city is covering the cost through a no-interest 60 month loan from Motorola. The first payment of $87,000 is due in January, and then the city must pay $602,000 per year on the loan for the next four years.

The city still has $1.8 million out in construction bonds for the $4 million library which opened in 2009.

A $1 million sanitation loan for the purchase of truck and equipment needed when the city switched to automated services in 2011. To pay for needed items the city got a 60-month loan at 3 percent interest.

A $3.1 million, 60-month loan at 2.25 percent to construct a safe room and complete the public safety building.